What a blessing to spend time, share life and discuss adventures when we gather with others! Afterward, we wonder why don’t I spend more time enjoying company? It’s easy to get caught up in our daily routine and miss life-enriching moments. A nagging “To Do” List captivates our attention. Making preparations for having company isn’t always on the list.
Hospitality doesn’t come easy, but it isn’t difficult. Perceived urgency of things we need to do weighs heavily on us. We feel overwhelmed with everything on our plate. Adding a new thing displaces something else already planned. Because we make hospitality grander then it needs to be in our heads, we keep ourselves from enjoying more beautiful moments in our lives.
Opportunities to show gracious hospitality arise when we cross paths with others. It may be as simple as warmly welcoming someone to an event or engaging in conversation. A kind introduction helps newcomers join an ongoing conversation.
Sometimes hospitality opportunities are dropped in our laps. Our latest experience was having family live with us for almost 1-1/2 years. This indeed was a time for imperfect hospitality in action because it was impromptu hosting from beginning to end!
If you had family (or others) living with you during the pandemic and worked full-time, you remember the drill. Each day brought changing protocols, new mandates, dwindling food supplies and staples impacting households everywhere. (Who knew toilet paper was so valuable?) Maybe like us, you felt the increased weight of responsibility for providing for those under your roof as shortages continued. We all pressed on through those uncertain days.
We had “company” when our youngest son and his new wife lived with us during the pandemic. For 16 months running, all efforts were made to help them settle in comfortably. With our family’s work and school schedule, my main focus was gathering nightly for a family meal. This gave us the opportunity to spend some personal time away from pressing matters.
We had 3 reasons for planning our daily family evening meal:
- It is our family’s tradition.
- Gathering gave us a space of time together.
- This would likely be one of the last times we could spend time together in such an intimate, meaningful way.
Meshing schedules proved challenging. For the first 9 months of sheltering in, I was the last one awake (in the wee hours) finishing things needing to be done; and the first one up in the early morning, setting up for the day.
For 4 months I worked full-time, as I prepared for a speaking conference. After putting in 8-9 hours straight through the day, I spent about 2 hours making dinner, followed by another 2 hours of cleanup (most nights). It was a full, exhausting day, but I was dedicated to having this important time together. It was worth it.
My conference was postponed when gathering mandates were enacted. I worked intensively during the next 6 months preparing for it. In the end, respecting my family’s concerns for bringing COVID home, I didn’t attend the rescheduled conference. I did accomplish a lot during those 10 months!
My husband and I remained committed to providing a roof over our children’s heads, keeping them safe, providing food for them. This is the kind of loving hospitality a parent willingly provides. Our school and work schedules changed somewhat during the summer, but we continued to gather.
Getting adequate rest was challenging for everyone! Focusing on our evening meal mission helped, especially in the face of adversity as satan attempted to disrupt our family’s lives. I realize now I was also battling burn-out, after launching my book RESTORING THE BROKEN PLACES IN AN UNFORGIVING WORLD.
We continued serving food, providing hospitality, love, wisdom, support and encouragement in the face of the unknown. I believe this is the heart of imperfect hospitality — offered in love, to encourage and give comfort. It is offered from the heart with the hope of comforting. In this situation it was my husband and I assuring our children of the beautiful future God has planned for them.
I’m grateful for every moment our family had during this challenging time. It was a blessing to serve them in this way. Living a faith-based life assures us our heavenly Father is greater than our circumstances. He is the solution to all pressing problems. In His undeniable love, He never leaves us to deal with challenges on our own. He brought our family through those dark days.
The beautiful future God planned for all of our children is dawning. We know our prayers are being answered in amazing ways for them!
OPEN YOUR HEART WITH THIS TOOLBOX FOR GRACIOUS GATHERINGS WITH IMPERFECT HOSPITALITY:
- Preparing favorite meals and special foods for restricted diets and preferences is thoughtful and welcoming.
- Give guests a taste of your family’s life by serving family favorites to new family members or visitors from other countries, along with a generous helping of backstory of why the dish is so popular or special memories associated with it.
- Pray ahead for the gathering, asking each to be blessed.
- Try to get rest beforehand.
- Keep arrangements simple, so they are not all-consuming.
- Focus on creating a warm, welcoming environment.
- No matter how simple, offer it all in love.
- Cover all (including your efforts) with grace — things don’t always turn out as planned!
- Memories will be made through your efforts of graciously offered (yet) imperfect hospitality.
The Bible provides guidance on opening our hearts and homes.
Are you (or someone you know) experiencing challenges in the wake of COVID? You May be interested in reading: How Are YOU… Really?